Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy Los Angeles

It's a little past one in the morning, I'm tired, and I'm getting ready to go to bed. I've been up watching the news coverage of the LAPD removing the occupy Los Angeles protesters from city hall, and so far, all is peaceful. I don't know what I expected, but I' am pleased that both sides have remained non violent. Unlike Oakland and to a lesser extent New York City, the police in Los Angeles have used a minimalist approach to things. Move a few feet, ask people to leave, and when arrests have been made, it's been done gently. Far better than the reclaiming territory emphasis of other cities.
While I support the occupy movement, I've also become concerned that the protesters have become addicted to the political theater of the actual occupations. In the long run, it's only through political action, and in the United States that means registering to vote and elections, that real progress can be made in turning back the tide of right wing success. And that is an illustration of the strength of the right wing in America.
Conservatives didn't just arrive, and over night, replace the age of Roosevelt with the age of Ronald Reagan. They made incremental progress, year after year, moving the center further and further to the right fringes of politics. Those of us on the left came out, voted and elected Barack Obama, an early step in reclaiming the country from the clutches of the Allen Greenspans of the world. And when a liberal House of Representatives sent progressive legislation to the Senate, it died there. President Obama negotiated, made deals and saved a lot, but no where near enough, of that legislation. Our reaction to that should have been to elect even more liberals to congress and move the center back to where it was during the Great Society days of the Johnson administration. But instead, too many of us stayed away from the polls. I don't know whether that was the reaction of spoiled children, crying that we didn't get our way, right now, or whether we were just too preoccupied with other things to care. In any case, we gave congress to the Tea Party, and set the liberal movement back a few years. The Occupy Movement is a beginning. I just hope it doesn't become a dead end.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Penn State

I've had a few days for it all to process, and I have to say I'm not all that surprised about what's coming out of Penn State. As far as the child sex allegations go, while disturbing and worthy of harsh punishment, they're also not uncommon. Like it or not, it happens.
It's the fact that Penn State sought to cover things up, and in the process, allowed Jerry Sandusky to continue his actions that seems to be the real issue. In our society, we've granted a cult like status to big time college sports. At PSU, there has also been a cult of personality that has built up around Joe Paterno. (I went to Penn State, I'm in my mid-fifties, and it was part of the university's culture way back then.)
In the end, all involved moved to protect the church. It's human nature. The obvious parallel is the Catholic Church sex scandal, but it's hardly limited to the local parish. Whether it's the wilful ignorance of Steve Jobs and conditions in Apple's Chinese manufacturing plants or the defense of Roman Polanski, those we deify too often get a free ride.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day

Remember, it's only class warfare if we fight back. If we don't fight back it's class slavery.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

No No Elizabeth

I'm happy that Elizabeth Warren was passed over for the top spot at the new consumer protection agency. Now she has time to run for the Senate, and if she can beat Scott Brown (Not a sure thing.) ...well why shouldn't she be a contender in 2016? Hillary and Biden will both have some age issues, and I can't see anyone else out there making a name for themselves in the Democratic party.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Edge Update

I've got a funny feeling that this fight isn't over, but the California Coastal Commission has made it official and formally nixed U2 guitarist David Evans, a middle aged multi millionaire who rather pathetically refers to himself as The Edge, plan to build five mega mansions on an environmentally sensitive ridge line over looking Malibu and the Pacific Ocean. As commissioner Peter Douglas remarked, "In my 38 years, I have never seen a project as environmentally devastating as this one. An environmentally sensitive person would never pick this site to develop." Law suits to follow.


Of course Evans could get back some of that Edge by donating the land to The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which might help get a Santa Monica Mountains National Park jump started, and in return, in addition to a hefty tax deduction, we can name the ridge line after him. The Edge Overlook. Now that's sharp.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Weiner

Dare I say it again? People like sex. People, given the chance, will use whatever means at hand to play at sex. Unless someone breaks a law, a person's sex life, and that includes the sex lives of the famous, shouldn't be any of our business. If Representative Anthony Weiner wants to send sexually themed photos to women and they are receptive, who cares? Not me.
I've noticed that some Repugs are trying to draw a comparison to Weiner and another New York state congressman, Chris Lee. Their confused logic seems to run along the lines that since our guy resigned, a Democrat should fall too. Well, Rep. Lee, yet another anti-gay marriage Repug, in addition to posting shirtless photos of himself, was trolling for passable CD/TVs for fun and games. Personally, I don't think an interest in guys wearing high heels, dresses, and red lipstick should disqualify a man from being in congress. As I've pointed out on my photo blog, I spent years working in photo labs, and I never had a week go by where I didn't print amateur, sexually themed photographs, and by far, the biggest category was cross dressing. Hey, what ever does it for you. By now, Repug hypocrisy has been so well established, that I doubt it can do them any harm.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Books Worth Reading-The Jungle

Just finished rereading The Jungle. I found it far more relevant than ever.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Good News!

Good news! U2 guitarist, and environmental criminal, The Edge, has got bad news. The California Coastal Commission has recommended against his mountain top housing development in the environmentally sensitive Santa Monica Mountains.
Make no mistake. The Edge argues that because he only wants to build five mega mansions and that he intends to use green technology that somehow or another it's not like building 500 suburban tract houses in the valley. Actually, it's a lot worse. While much of Los Angeles is short on parkland, open space, and recreational areas, it's also true that the majority of L.A. is already developed, and the damage is already done. Too, we do need housing and and the mega developments in already inhabited areas provide homes for large numbers of middle class people who can't afford the sort of luxury that The Edge and his future tenants can. (I'm always open to class based arguments.) Greater benefit can justify some environmental compromises. Benefit for the chosen and wealthy few, can not.
What Edgy wants to do is to build an exclusive community, which bars those not rolling in cash, by destroying a mountain ridge with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. He wants to continue the slicing and dicing of the only Mediterranean type eco-zone in the United States. He fools himself; makes himself feel self righteous, in that he would include green building methods for his development, and that somehow that makes things alright. But, what he can't get around is the building of roads through sensitive, relatively undisturbed land, destroying something that can't only be restored through massive and expensive effort.
Of course, the fight against The Edge's desecration of the Santa Monica Mountains is far from over. Like most developers, he'll try and change plans just enough to get a go ahead on this unjustified project. Only a Santa Monica Mountains National Park, and the purchase of The Edge's land for this new park, can save it from alteration.
Also, Tejon Ranch National Park, an idea whose time has come.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Love Bikes

I love bicycles. I love riding them, I love looking at them, and I love the pro racing circuit. If you're like me this is both a good and bad time to be a bike lover. The Tour of California has just ended, the Giro d'Italia is ongoing, and the investigation of Lance Armstrong continues.
I've always been a big Armstrong fan and I keep thinking I should be depressed that so many people have come out and testified that they saw Lance using PEDs. When it was Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton I was prepared to ignore things, but George Hincappie has also claimed that Lance was a doper, and while he could also have some deep ulterior motive to lie, well, I don't think so.
This is what it gets down to for me. Team managers need to put cyclists on the podium to keep their jobs. Team sponsors want cycling success to show the corporate logos. Team owners need a steady supply of sponsors to stay in business, so they need winning riders too. Fans want to see ever harder climbs, more technical, high speed descents, and race organizers are more than willing to provide the thrills so they can stay on TV. And the silly old men of the UCI try and prove their relevance by insisting that the major teams have a presence at every important race in the world.
I'm tired of the hypocrisy of cycling. Every interest group in the business (And that's what it is, a business.) has their own little agenda, and between them they've created a system where it's almost impossible to survive without some sort of help. When I see bike racing I just assume that everyone is doing something and the only people who will be held accountable are the riders.
So, I don't care if Armstrong, Landis, Hamilton, Basso, Millar, Vino, or Alberto Contador have their little chemical helpers. That's just the way it is. It's not just a matter of winning, it's a matter of surviving the extreme demands of pro bike racing. Right now, Contador is dominating the Giro and he'll probably dominate the Tour de France as well. I can't believe that it's possible for a mortal man to do what he's doing, and I can't believe that teams managers, sponsors, and race organizers believe it either. Come up with a more reasonable system for the riders or let them dope. And if we are going after PEDs in cycling, it's time to spread the blame around. Maybe riders should be limited to one grand tour a year, or have a maximum number of days in the saddle. And maybe the UCI should be limited to overseeing the Olympics and not a pro sport.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

U2 Can Be An Environmental Criminal

Even though his about face is more symbolic than substantive, I have to say I was very disappointed that Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy chair Joe Edmiston has gone from opposing a five home development put together by U2 guitarist and environmental criminal The Edge, to one of neutrality. My oh my, what a donation of $750,000 and a few trail easements can do to a man's integrity!
In the past I've wondered about the possibility of a Santa Monica Mountains National Park that would include all of the local, state, conservancy, and federal lands within a to be determined border touching Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, to Point Magu State Park in Ventura County. And while it would very likely be impossible, and quite frankly not desirable, to include the actual beach community of Malibu, and the long established community of Fernwood in Topanga Canyon, it would be possible to stop the ever increasing march of development in the ecologically unique mountain range, by the slow, incremental acquisition of private land beyond the coast and the 101 corridor, including The Edge's ridge top monstrosity. A no vote by the California Coastal Commission on The Edge's development would be a good start.
And while I'm on the subject of things that will probably never happen, Tejon Ranch National Park, an idea whose time has come.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Few Thoughts About Osama bin Laden

I'm glad Osama bin Laden lived long enough to witness the Arab spring. Tunisia, Libya, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Yemen. The crowds clogging the streets, fighting against their governments, aren't begging for some medieval version of Islam or a theocratic dictatorship, but all the things that bin Laden professed to hate. The Arab street may not be aware of it, but they've turned to Thomas Jefferson as roll model, not bin Laden. They may not succeed in creating democratic regimes in all, or for that matter any, of the listed nations, but they're willing to put their lives on the line for a freedom that bin Laden had hoped to snuff out. Osama bin Laden became irrelevant to history. Just another cheap killer.

Obama 1, Osama 0. I've noticed that all but a handful of Republicans are trying to credit our George with killing bin Laden. Just a reminder to Repugs everywhere, Bush shut down the Osama bin Laden task force at CIA. It was Obama, belittled as the candidate not able to handle the phone call at 3 A.M., who made the decision to once again make bin Laden a major priority, and who made the call to send in Navy SEALS rather than making the far easier call of a missile strike. Had things gone wrong, president Obama would have been held responsible in the same way that Jimmy Carter was held responsible for the failed rescue attempt during the Iran hostage crises. The president deserves credit for things going right.

I'm not sure that the elected government of Pakistan was shielding Osama bin Laden, but I'd bet that the Pakistani intelligence people were.

I'm opposed to the death penalty, but I don't have any problem with the order to take Osama out. Sure, if he threw up his arms and begged to be taken alive, we should have done so, but why increase risk to American lives to keep the man alive.

Have all the Islam haters, like Terry Jones and his crew, noticed that not just American Muslims, but Muslims the world over are happy that Osama bin Laden is dead. On the news I saw the head of The Muslim Brotherhood saying what a good thing bin Laden's death was. Stanley "Tookie" Williams founded the Crips street gang. Arrested and sentenced to death for murder, after entering prison he had a change of heart and developed anti-gang programs for young people. When his last appeal was denied, local law enforcement and news commentators warned that there would be riots on the streets of Los Angeles if the governor didn't commute his sentence. I asked a black co-worker if she was worried about violence. "Are you kidding me?, she replied. "That man founded the Crips. He killed more black people than the Klan. The people I know are going to celebrate." There might be a few marginalized Islamic radicals who try to retaliate, but I am not worried. Osama bin Laden is dead, and I don't care.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Child Labor

One of the things about being under employed and over extended is that I spend way too much of my time, at home, remote in hand, taking a whirl around the world of television. And while I've become addicted to Burn Notice, Fringe, Castle and the many Stargate franchises, I do, on occasion make a side trip to PBS. So there I was, an afternoon too windy to ride the bike, when I stumbled upon a panel show about current events from a woman's point of view. I didn't catch the name of the show and I didn't recognize any of the participants, but I was fascinated by their subject; the movement to roll back child labor laws.

Like all modern shows, far too determined to be fair and balanced, (Not like Fox.) the panelists were a cross section of liberals and conservatives. The liberals were very concerned, in a civilized and thoughtful way, a sure fire recipe for defeat, that children would have to work late on school nights and fall behind in their studies. The cons, on the other hand, preached the value of hard work. Apparently they all had very Dickensian childhoods since to a person, they bragged about their long hours of teen-aged labor and how it made them self sufficient adults in no need of any sort of government aide. (And yes, I do know that that is a fantasy.)

What shocked me though, was the one very, very big point that both sides missed. If the age at which children can work is lowered, if the amount of hours they are allowed to work is increased, and if states are allowed to pass sub-minimum wages for workers under 18, why should employers hire adults? Don't think it would happen? Many years ago, before I committed the unthinkable academic crime of bouncing one too many tuition checks, I was, for awhile, a history major with an interest in American labor movements. During the progressive era, when child labor first became a political issue, children as important, or even primary, bread winners was not uncommon. Forced into labor at a young age to help support families, children had to drop out of school, and the fact that they made less money than adults, made them attractive to employers. Large numbers of child workers created labor surpluses, which lowered wages even more, which increased the need for more children to get jobs at younger and younger ages to help support ever impoverished families. The race to the bottom, (I do wish I had coined that phrase!) isn't new. It's as old as unregulated, cut throat capitalism.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Royal Wedding

Didn't we fight a revolution so we could ignore these people? The idea of an inherited monarchy is absurd. The notion that a family is owed deference, loyalty or reverence because of an accident of birth is so stupid that it defies all reason. That so many people, around the world, care about this wedding is insane.

What really bothers me is that so many of my fellow Americans, citizens of a free republic, descended from founders who were willing to die so that we would not have to bow down to a king are all a flutter about the House of Windsor. I can remember a column by the late Mike Royko about a visit by Prince Philip to Chicago. It seems that the royal dullness was quite put out that Americans felt free to approach him on something other than bended knee. Royko pointed out to Phil that had it not been for the citizens of our republic his polo pony would be branded with a swastika and he should show a little humility. I agree, and I also think that if the British had any common sense, they'd boot the Windsors to a much deserved exile in some former colony that was raped and pillaged in the name of god, king, and country.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor

I've long believed that actors aren't remembered for their acting, they're remembered for their movies. John Wayne was in The Searchers, Stagecoach, They Were Expendable, Red River, The Wings of Eagles, The Big Trail, Fort Apache, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Shootist, In Harms Way, Rio Grande, Rio Bravo, The Quiet Man, and The Long Voyage Home. Laurence Olivier was not. With Rebeca, Spartacus, and a few solid, though not great films, Olivier will fade from memory while John Wayne will be remembered.
When I heard that Elizabeth Taylor had died, I realized that while I knew a lot about her personal life, I had trouble recalling anything from her movies. A quick look at her filmography and Giant jumped out at me, but I've long held the Giant's status as a classic had more to do with the James Dean death cult than any special qualities that the film had. While Taylor made a number of solid movies, most were on the over the top soap opera side.
So why was Elizabeth Taylor such a film icon? One of the things that I've observed as a film fan is that there are some people who photograph well in black & white. Greta Garbo is an excellent example. From her early silent films to Ninotchka, there was just something about the way the planes of her face reflected light and and reproduced in black & white. There are also some people who photograph well in color. Elizabeth Taylor came along right at the time when black & white was fading from the scene and color was taking over the movie screen. Those violet eyes, the pale skin, the jet black hair, and the red lipstick she almost always wore could take over the large screens of her day. She was stunningly beautiful and she was made for technicolor.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Nuclear Renaissance

From the front page of yesterday's Los Angles Times, "Japan Crisis May Derail Nuclear Renaissance." What nuclear renaissance? Conservatives love to blather on about how evil environmentalists destroyed the nuclear industry in the United States, and as an environmentalist I'd love to take credit, but that's not what happened. For those too young to remember, we stopped building nuke plants because they were prohibitively expensive to build. After they were built, it was still far cheaper, per kilowatt hour, to generate electricity by burning coal. (Also true of hydroelectricity, solar , and wind.) But the big reason the nuclear industry died in the United States, after Three Mile Island, the insurance industry realized that they could be on the hook to replace Philadelphia. Now that's a high risk policy.
The nuclear industry was crippled by the conservative holy grail, the free market. I suspect Obama talks about new nuke plants to shut up the cons, knowing that there won't be new nuclear plants as long as the free market rules.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Better Late Than Never Oscar Predictions

Well, I should have done this a couple of weeks ago, but here are my annual Academy Award predictions. This year I'm going to do something a bit different. I'll make one prediction for who I think will win in some of the major categories. Then, who I think should win from among the nominees. Then, who I think should win from all the films I saw last year. In the second two tiers of predictions, I will list more than one winner, but the first of the group will be who I would vote for, if I had a vote, and if someone had a gun to my head and said choose one.
Best supporting actress. Melissa Leo, for The Fighter will win. Even though I think she is mis-nominated and should be considered a lead, from among nominees I would vote for either Hailee Stienfeld for True Grit or Amy Adams for The Fighter. Melissa Leo was, in my opinion, over the top, while Amy Adams did the hard work of toning down what could have been a real scenery chewing role. And my favorites from all movies...Chloe Moritz from Kick-Ass, Kristen Scott-Thomas from Nowhere Boy, and Barbara Hershey and Mila Kunis from Black Swan. This is the one category where most of the my nods didn't even get nominations.
Best Supporting Actor. Christian Bale for The Fighter will win. From among the nominees, Bale or Geoffrey Rush from The King's Speech. Across the board, Andrew Garfield for The Social Network,Vincent Cassel for Black Swan, Armie Hammer for The Social Network, and Bale and Rush. Garfield's performance of the only true friend of Mark Zuckerberg who watched, understood, but couldn't believe that his friend would betray him is one of the best acting jobs I've ever seen, bar none. I couldn't believe he hasn't won all of the acting awards.
Actress. Natalie Portman for Black Swan will win, I'd vote for her and only her among the nominees, and opening things up to all the films I saw lasy year, only Hailee Stienfield for True Grit would be considered on the same level. Between those two, my only toss-up.
Actor. Colin Firth for The King's Speech will win. From among the nominees, Javier Bardem for Biutiful, Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network, and Jeff Bridges for True Grit. And no, Firth would not be on my short list. From all films, the same list, with one addition, Mark Wahlberg from The Fighter.
Director. Tom Hooper for The King's Speech will win. Who should win from among the nominees, David Fincher for The Social Network or the Coen brothers for True Grit. Again, the same list for all films.
Best Picture. The Kings' Speech will win, and it does not deserve the award. There is a certain type of American that has a reverence for all things British, and any examination of their history... well let's just say it's an undeserved reverence. From among the nominees, The Social Network, True Grit, Black Swan and The Fighter. Among all films, add Biutiful after The Social Network, and Kick-Ass Taking up the rear.
And the best release from last year, the restored version of Metropolis.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Super Bowl 45

To quote the great Dallas Cowboy running back, Duane Thomas, "If it's the ultimate game, why are they going to play it again next year?" Remember that you read it here first...Pittsburgh 31, Green Bay 27. And no, I'm not making this prediction because I grew up near Pittsburgh. I really think we're going to win. Of course I also start every baseball season thinking that the Pirates are going to have a winning season.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


.....conservative political policy causes violence.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Congratulations to Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar for their much deserved election to the Hall of Fame. I was surprised, last year, when Alomar wasn't elected his first year on the ballot. With a lifetime 300 batting average and the sure hands of one of the greatest defensive second basemen of all time he seemed like a lock to me. I grew up in western Pennsylvania and had the privilege of seeing Bill Mazeroski play, and Alomar was every bit as good as Maz in the field and a far better hitter. If Maz deserved election (And I believe he did) for his defensive skills, as important a part of the game as batting, then Roberto deserved it more.
Bert Blyleven played for several teams, including the Pittsburgh Pirates which always earns the benefit of the doubt with me, but how the Baseball Writers could wait 14 years to put him in the hall...well, it's all part of the lunacy of the writers. 287 wins, and had he played for better teams, he would have easily gone over 300. But it's being in the top ten in both strikeouts and shut-outs that's really amazing. I would love it if he went into the Hall as a Pirate, but I'm sure he'll go in as a Twin.
Now let's get into the hypocrisy of baseball. There is no way in hell that management didn't know about PED use. Baseball players get multiple physicals every year. Teams have training staffs that monitor fitness every day of the season, and those trainers report to management. Baseball didn't care about steroids until congress came snooping around the game looking for illegal steroid use. So why are players like Rafael Palmeiro not getting their due? We know that Palmeiro used steroids toward the end of his career, and might have used them earlier as well. Probably did, as a matter of fact. But, he was facing pitchers who were also juicing, and he did hit over 500 home runs and over 3,000 base hits. He should have been a first year lock. Mark McGwire is a far more problematic choice even if he had been clean and needle free. Big Mac did hit 500 + HR's, but beyond that...a good though not great fielder, oft injured, and a not very good batting average. I wouldn't have any problem one way or the other with McGwire. Great power, but a one dimensional player.
There are a number of deserving players that have survived to be on the ballot another year, but I'd like to signal out two who I feel should get in. Fred McGriff with 493 home runs. Come on, are we going to keep the guy out because he was seven short of 500? And Tim Raines...great all around player with no personality.